We love our pets, but we don’t always understand why they do the things they do. Take licking, for example. While you may not understand your dog’s desire to lick couch cushions and carpeting, there’s actually scientific evidence that says pups lick just about everything for habitual reasons. What’s more, our dogs lick our faces to show affection (or because they like the way we taste). But what does it mean when our dogs become our second shadows? If you’ve ever noticed that your four-legged friend follows you from room to room, we’re here to demystify this behavior.
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According to Jane MacMurchy, animal specialist and coordinator from Animal Charity of Ohio, there are a couple of reasons why your dog is following you, and the first is imprinting. Canines are pack animals, and we, as their owners, are part of their pack—historically speaking, this symbiotic relationship dates back to when wolves were domesticated by mankind anywhere between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. Today, young puppies up to six months of age can imprint on their owners and learn to read social cues as they would their birth mother; in evolution over time, they have even developed “puppy eyes” to convey their emotions with you.
In a household of multiple people, there’s a good chance your dog will become fixated on one person in particular. Oftentimes, it’s the primary caregiver who provides meals, plays tug-of-war or a game of fetch, or even hands out delicious treats. This is another reason your dog might stay close to your side: positive reinforcement.
Traits of the Breed
There is a tendency for certain dogs to over-attach to their owners, particularly those categorized in the working or herding groups; this includes the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, or Shetland Sheepdog, among others. Herding groups were bred to work side-by-side with their humans, so it’s in your pup’s DNA to stay by your side.
“Velcro” Attachment as Separation Anxiety
As more and more dogs have grown accustomed to their owners being home due to the pandemic, a newfound clinginess may be due to the interruption in their daily routine. When your dog is suddenly following you everywhere, this can be a sign of boredom or anxiety. Think about it: If the highlight of your dog’s day is watching you walk around the house, it’s time for some mental stimulation for your pet. After all, watching your sweep the floor gets old, fast.
“We always recommend activities for your dog that can allow them to safely exercise their minds,” says MacMurchy. “We recommend activities like frozen Kongs, snuffle mats, or puzzle toys.” Mentally stimulating activities such as these can alleviate boredom and decrease anxiety in your dog. Furthermore, MacMurchy says to dedicate a consistent amount of time to bond with your dog. This can be a simple ear rub, walk, or a game of fetch done so sporadically throughout the day spent at home.